Views of the Monkeynut

by   Peter R. Lloyd-Davies

Europe 1997 New Hampshire 1998 On Kittens and Cuckoos 2003
Disney 2000 New Hampshire 1999 On the Theater 2004
Europe 2000 New Hampshire 2000 My Uncle Edward 2005
Southwest 2001 Seattle 2000 My War Journal 2006
Cape Cod 2002 New Hampshire 2001 The Current Unpleasantness 2007
Opila reunion 2002 Seattle 2002 2008
Christmas 2002 New Hampshire 2003 2009
Honk! - February 2003 Toni in Alaska, July 2008 2010
Memorial Day 2003 The Geezers ride again, 2009
July 4 2003
Maine, August 2003
Lake Winnipesauke, 2004
Russell is 90, Sept 2004
Europe, August 2005
A mighty wind, 2006
Turkey, 2007
Xmas 2007 pictures
Mike's graduation, June 2008
Puerto Rico, January 2011
In and around Austin, 2011

Views of the Monkeynut presents a vivid multimedia adventure unfolding the splendor of the Lloyd-Davies and Lynch atomic family, featuring, as the nucleus, Peter and Louise; as the electrons, Madeleine and Toni, along with their perky pets, Volt and Tillie. Discover the agonies and ecstacies of their latest travels, or study the history of their adventures from conception to the present through a vast archive of photographs, scientific facts, questionable rumor, text, graphics and videos.





New from the Monkeynut, 2011 - we now live in Texas for real. I can't say we speak with a slow drawl or can spit into a spitoon at 15 paces. (Yet.) But we feel very comfortable living in Austin and especially in our part of Austin, in Barton Hills. Here's what we've been up to since our last post.

The summer was remarkably hot. We had 90 days with triple digit temperatures and an all-time-record-tying high temperature of 112. The main consequence was that we didn't do much out of doors, which was a shame because it ate into our potential exploration of our new territory. One day, as we arrived at the air-conditioned gym, we saw a woman come back from a serious run. Good Lord, cried Louise - how do you do it in this heat??? She replied - you live in a hot place and you need to embrace the heat. We were both very impressed by this wisdom, and Louise decided to go on a bike ride later in the day. In a while, the phone rang and she asked me to pick her and her bike up in the car. Turned out that she had picked the very day the temperature hit 112. Embrace my derriere, she said.

The other scary consequence of the heat, combined with a critical shortage of rain, was the dreadful spate of wildfires in central Texas. The largest of these was the Bastrop fire, which was not more than 25 miles away from us to the east. It consumed a large state park and incinerated over a thousand homes. On occasion, we could smell the smoke at our house. I pulled some photos off the web showing just how scary it was.

Over the summer, Toni came up to Austin with the frisbee team to compete in a tournament. We went to see them play and were mightily impressed by how much they embraced the heat, running back and forth all day under a blazing sun. Standing under an awning, we watched them play just one game before we snuck away to find some place cooler.

But it did eventually cool down and we have ventured out of doors and enjoyed it. We gave the bats another try, despite our disappointment when we saw them on our trip in August 2010, and they redeemed themselves, flocking out in great numbers. We have not really explored the local music scene, although we we able to hear bits of Austin City Limits in Zilker Park in September from our deck and we went to see Carrie Rodriguez at Threadgills and found her wonderful.

We have made some friends in town although unsurprisingly it has been a slow process. We have tried meeting people through Meetups, which are groups focussed on some activity and arranged over the internet. We joined the Austin High Culture group, which I thought might be about growing marijuana in your basement, but turned out to be just about going to museums. We joined the Austin Film Society, which puts on a weekly movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. (No, not that Alamo - this one is just down the road on Lamar.) I have joined the Texas Gun Owners group; we have monthly meets at a range not far from Austin where we bang away at targets for a few hours and then have lunch together. All in all, the meetups have given us access to some enjoyable activities, but have not been a great source of new friendships.

One more advantage of Austin is that an offshoot of Louise's father's family came to Texas quite some time ago and she has relatives in Corpus Christi, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. They have been most welcoming and it has been easier for us to feel rooted as a result. Every Thanksgiving, the family gets together for dinner at a farm in Elgin, which is 20 miles from Austin, and they were gracious enough to invite us. The farm grows Christmas trees, although the drought has played havoc with what should have been their crop for this year, to the point that they decided to import trees from Washington state and leave their own trees to grow for another year. They had prepared three large turkeys in a giant smoker and the meal was heavenly. Here are a few pictures from the day.

Right before Thanksgiving, Madeleine received a job offer from comiXology, a digital distributor of comic books (including both DC and Marvel), based in New York. This satisfied two of her three requirements for a job, namely that it be in the comic book/graphic novel area and that it be in New York City. In her third requirement, that it pay a living wage, it came up a bit short, but it's hard to tell how this will evolve over the long run. She started work just before Thanksgiving, but was still able to be present for the great Thanksgiving bash. She has had a hard time find a suitable place to stay - she is renting a room uptown in a brownstone for a while until she finds a more desirable situation.

December brought us a couple of trips. One was to England following the death of my much loved Aunt Pauline - my Mum's brother's wife. She had been in failing health for a while, so it was neither a surprise nor a great source of sadness, and we were very happy to be able to spend some time with my cousins. There was a memorial service in which Pauline's three kids (now in or approaching their 60ies) each spoke of her life, which was in many ways a remarkable one. Her greatest achievement, in my opinion, was raising three such successful, thoughtful, decent kids, although there was also some mention of the 40 or so historical novels she published after her retirement.

Our second trip was to Chicago, where Louise's brother George and his partner of many years decided to take advantage of Illinois's new civil union law. They rented rooms at the Palmer House for the ceremony and then for a dinner/celebration that evening and then bedrooms to sleep it off (Louise and I had a suite with bedroom, two bathrooms and living area large enough to get lost in) and then for brunch the next day. Unfortunately, I missed the ceremony, but arrived in time for dinner and the rest. A fine time was had by all!

We spent a quiet Christmas at home with the girls and a monstrous Christmas tree. Santa put in his usual appearance and there were gifts a'plenty, despite Louise's dire warnings of an awful gift shortage. Madeleine stayed until the end of December and then flew back to New York; Toni is staying with us until mid-February, when she leaves for her semester in Taiwan.

The Academic Seal of Rice University

The Monkeynut arrives in Austin, July 7, 2011. Louise left first, on June 26, by car. She motored west and south, stopping at friends and family along the way. But however you slice it, it is an awfully long drive, approaching 2,000 miles. After five days on the road, her morale sustained by a music mix thoughtfully provided by Madeleine, she entered Austin. Austin was, of course, hot. Unfortunately for her, it was also hot in the house because the a/c had broken. There is one room upstairs which has its own separate cooling unit, so she sequestered herself up there while she arranged for help to arrive. She managed to locate the outfit that installed the unit and has been maintaining it, and the head guy came out to look at it. He pronounced it dead in an expensive sort of way, but then remembered that the part which had died was actually still under warranty. He was able to secure a replacement part the next day which got things cooled down for quite a reasonable fee.

Next, Louise encountered the legendary Texas hospitality from the neighborhood. The most dramatic way this was revealed to me was when I arrived and she and I went for little walk. Turned out that everyone we ran into had already met Louise and was her best friend. And they were all really nice, outgoing, interesting people. This contrasts sharply with our move from Larchmont to Stamford; after living in Stamford for a year, we knew fewer people that Louise knew in Austin after a week.

While Louise was bursting into Austin society, Madeleine and I were packing back in Stamford. We also looked for a way to get rid of the Ford Focus; Toni was hoping to inherit it, but when we looked into the cost of getting it down to Texas, it just didn't make sense. Ultimately, our agent at the moving company took it off our hands for a modest price.

To make my life a little more difficult, on June 29 I went in for outpatient surgery on my sinus. For six months I have been doing battle with recurring infections, no sense of smell and with everything I eat tasting of mold. Finally, I had a CT scan which showed my right sphenoid sinus was totally socked in, so my ENT guy offered to stick a rod up my nose, slip a balloon into the opening of the sinus, inflate it and then hose everything out. Why not, I replied. The operation went smoothly enough, although I'm still not quite feeling up to snuff.

On June 1, the truck came to clear out our storage unit.

On June 5, the truck came to clear out the townhouse. The movers complained that we had left too much stuff (mainly clothes) in the furniture and insisted that it be removed and boxed. I wanted to say - you feeble, pathetic weaklings! You should have seen the magnificent guys who moved us into the townhouse, balancing two, three boxes on the end of each finger! But I didn't.

When they left, there remained Madeleine, me, two cats with carriers and two suitcases, along with bits of left-over food in the refrigerator. No beds, no chairs, no TV, no internet. Our flight wasn't until the 7th, so we spent two excruciating nights lying on the floor pretending to sleep. But on Thursday, we headed for the airport, dropping off the cats, checking our bags and we were off to Austin on a one-way ticket. Louise met us at the baggage claim and we had a joyous reunion. We went to the cargo shed to pick up the cats - the guy said "We have two cats here. One is really friendly. The other less so." That definitely sounded like our pair, so we picked them up and headed for our new home.

I need to mention one other part of our leaving which made us realize why we had loved our years in Larchmont. Paul and Monica Turovsky held a farewell party in our honor just before Louise hit the road. The Roques were there, the Simmons, the Ciprianos, the LoBues, the Baade/Tanners and Joanne Fortune who came down for the weekend. Tears were shed, people hugged, vows made.

The Monkeynut prepares to head south, late February 2011. Louise and I had visited Charlottesville last fall, but were only able to spend a day there, so we decided to make another trip to look it over. This time we spent some time with Louise's cousin Beth and family while looking at houses both in and out of the city. My own heart was stolen by houses in the neighboring rural areas of Earlysville and Ivy - we saw some spectacular houses with amazing views of the mountains. Louise was more concerned about being in a community. But nothing appeared to suit us both.

We then flew to Austin to check out opportunities there. We had a very hectic stay; I had a client (coincidentally located in Austin) needing all kinds of stuff from me, so I was toiling late into the night. Then, during the day, Louise and I were looking at houses in every corner of town. Finally, on Monday February 28, we saw a house that spoke to us both, located in South Austin, close to the heart of town but near Zilker Park and not too urban for me. Everything then proceeded at breakneck speed. We put in an offer and the owners came back with a couple of minor changes in the contract, which we agreed to. We then had 10 days to do the inspection (which was fine) and we closed on March 24th. Phew! We are now certified home-owning Texans, although we are currently renting the house back to the previous owners for a month or two and do not expect to make our move until June or July.

Here are some pictures. It is smaller than our old house and there is almost no usable land beyond what the house is sitting on – if you walk more than five steps from the back of the house, you fall down a ravine, although I think we would own all the rocks you would bounce off on the way down. But the views are great and easy to enjoy from the deck. There are four bedrooms, all rather small, and we are thinking of doing a little remodeling to make the master bigger. Definitely room for guests, though. Not a blade of grass in sight, so no need for mowers.

New from the Monkeynut - The real winter 2011. Following our idyllic romp on the beaches of Puerto Rico, we returned to especially cold and snowy conditions back in Stamford, CT. The icicles from our roof were picturesque, but turned into deadly daggers when they started to melt. Our Ford Focus became snowed in and spent a couple of weeks locked into a fortress of ice. Here are a few pictures.

New from the Monkeynut - Winter 2011. The Monkeynut decided to flee the winter and take refuge in a tropical island paradise. Accordingly, we flew out of JFK on the morning of January 1, leaving our car in long-term parking along with a large number of identical white lumps, and landing at San Juan Puerto Rico, where our friend Joanne was waiting to greet us. Suddenly it was summer, with highs in the 80ies and sand in our hair. Bliss!

We stayed in Rincon, on the far western shore of the island. Rincon is a small village, far away from the urban center of San Juan. It is known principally as a hang-out for surfer dudes and grizzled expats who are willing to tell you their life stories over a couple of rum punches. There are some beaches that I guess are well-known to the international surfer community, and the 1968 World Championships of Surfing were held in Rincon, although we didn't see a lot of surf or surfer action. There is a snorkeling/diving scene, especially around the island of Desecheo, which is a 45 minute boat ride from town. You can go parasailing; you can rent a boat and go deep-sea fishing. Inland, there are some parks with rain forest and lakes and some steep hills that offer E-ticket rides if you're brave enough to drive them. There is also the Río Camuy Cave Park, which features one of the largest cave systems in the world. And for the scientifically inclined, there is the Arecibo radio telescope, still the largest single reflector in the world, nestled into a hollow in the hills.

The coolest place we went to was the southwest corner of the island, where we encountered the perfect beach, nestled in perfect little arc. And the best thing about it was that it was by no means crowded, presumably because of its distance from San Juan and the difficulties getting there. More pictures here.

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